In this article Cheyanne explores the world of slow fashion, revealing everything you need and want to know about this recent phenomenon
Sustainability has been a hot topic in the fashion industry recently. New terms seem to be popping up every day – from slow fashion to eco attire and circular fashion. Trying to navigate this new ethical paradigm can send your head spinning. So I’ve broken down the most important information to help you better understand “slow fashion” and integrate this knowledge the next time you are on the hunt for a new wardrobe item.
To understand slow fashion, it is essential to grasp what “fast fashion” is. From the time of the industrial revolution, the modern western world has been focused on efficiency, innovation, and capital gain. Over time this led to what we now call fast fashion. Fast fashion essentially refers to the production chain in the garment industry which has for some time been pumping out disposable garments for low prices to keep shoppers buying new clothes season after season.
According to Fashion Hedge, “fast fashion retailers have been very successful at acquiring consumers not only because they compete in price but because they bring the latest catwalk trends to the mainstream consumer very shortly after celebrities”. The problem is that this often leads to shady manufacturing practices. From overseas garment makers working in inhumane conditions, to the environmental impact of unregulated manufacturing, fast fashion has some serious side effects. The allure of cheap and fashionable clothes led to fast fashion as the norm. However, that is all changing.
Slow fashion is a principle that arose as a reaction to the fast fashion garment industry. The main principles of slow fashion fall under three categories; good, clean, and fair. The term was first coined in 2007 in an article by Kate Fletcher in the Ecologist where she states, “The concept of slow fashion borrows heavily from the Slow Food Movement. Founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986, Slow Food links pleasure and food with awareness and responsibility.” Good quality, clean production that doesn’t harm the environment, and fair conditions and pay for producers. These are the cornerstones of the slow fashion movement.
What is the difference between sustainable, vegan, ethical, or slow fashion labels? Slow fashion is such a new phenomenon there are no clear cut definitions for any of these terms and there is often a great deal of overlap. Despite the ever-changing nature of these evolving terms it does help to shed light on how brands may be using them and for what cause. Let us break down some key definitions from the slow fashion world.
The main goal of sustainable fashion is to create systems in garment production which can be supported indefinitely. This means the long-term production will not harm humans, the environment, or society.
This refers to materials used that are not made from animal products. However, this moralistic sticker does not necessarily equate to slow fashion. A brand can still have very much ingrained fast fashion practices and still use the label vegan.
Ethical fashion describes a certain level of transparency about manufacturing processes which fast fashion companies do not let their consumers in on. This trend emerged after a rise in reports and evidence about shady practices by many big-name brands. As a way to change this pattern in fast fashion, ethical brands began to emerge, allowing their customers a clear view of how and where their garments are made.
“Defined as clothes, shoes or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced and provided with the intention to be used and circulate responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use.” (Anna Brismar, Green Strategy, 2017)
Refers to fashion produced in ways that don’t harm the environment. This may be done by using recycled materials, or materials which have been grown without the use of pesticides.
To confidently know if a brand is truly sustainable you will need to do a bit of research. If a brand or designer is ethically producing garments they will typically be very clear on their website as to where their textiles come from, how their garments are produced, and what their goals are as a sustainable company.
Recently the fashion world celebrated “Second-Hand September”, a further attempt to popularize the notion of slow fashion. This trend caught on quickly with many people using the hashtag #secondhandseptember to show their support (and their cute outfits) for the cause. Shopping second hand is a great way to shop sustainably. With so many garments pumped out by the fast fashion industry, the charity shops or online selling platforms are often filled with great finds from your favourite labels.
The best way we can all create change within the garment industry is by adjusting our consumption patterns. By shifting your focus to buy quality staple items that will last years to come and pausing to think if you need yet another crew neck jumper are some simple ways everyone can make a change for the better. Another great way to help the slow fashion movement is by revamping old clothes. You would be surprised how adding a trim down the side of your trousers, or changing the buttons on your jacket can completely change a garment.
Part of the new slow fashion paradigm is also being a responsible consumer. This means taking the time to look into where your garments come from instead of just buying for speed and convenience. Tons of great brands have been trailblazers in the slow fashion movement and this is certainly only becoming more common.
From brands and designers to retailers and consumers; we all play a role in creating a new normal within the fashion industry. With a few good intentions and a clear message; together we can create a sustainable, fashionable, and healthy world where fast fashion is a thing of the past.
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